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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Unconventional Wisdom 

Yesterday I was reading that Aaron Rowand might be done for the season with the Phillies. The article I was reading pitched Rowand’s injury as a major loss for the Phillies in their quest for the wildcard because Rowand was having a “brilliant” season for the Phillies defensively. The Inquirer’s Todd Zolecki chimed in and stated that “there is no question that Rowand’s loss is a blow.” That is the conventional wisdom.

The reality is that the Phillies quest for the post-season probably got a major boost with Rowand’s injury.

Let’s first dispose of the idea that Rowand has been a terrific defensive performer for the Phillies. Check out Zone Rating for NL Centerfielders:

Zone Rating:
1. Beltran (Mets): .912
2. Pierre (Cubs): .908
3. Byrnes (Dbacks): .906
4. Taveras (Astros): .895
5. Cameron (Pads): .894
6. Edmonds (Cards): .892
7. Finley (Giants): .885
8. Sullivan (Rockies): .862
9. Rowand (Phillies): .857
10. Lofton (Dodgers): .854
11. Jones (Braves): .852
12. Clark (Brewers): .852
13. Griffey (Reds): .810

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Zone Rating (ZR): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.

And this actually represents some improvement on Rowand’s part: he had actually been ranked eleventh at one point earlier in the season. The bottom-line is that Rowand, that terrific catch back in the spring where he injured himself notwithstanding, has been having a terrible season for the Phillies as their centerfielder. Why, I do not know. He had a terrific season for the White Sox as a fielder, which is the whole reason why the Phillies dealt to bring him on board, but for this season he has been having a terrible time in the outfield. Getting used to playing center at Citizens? Who knows.

So here I am going to engage in a bit of supposition: Shane Victorino, Rowand’s replacement in center, will play better baseball than Aaron Rowand. I have no numbers to back that up because Victorino has played so little in the outfield but from what I’ve seen Victorino cannot do a worse job than Rowand has this season. In the interest of complete candor I have to concede that Victorino rates lower than Rowand in Zone Rating in centerfield this season:

Zone Rating / Innings
Rowand: .857 / 901 & 2/3
Victorino: .833 / 221 & 1/3

Of course Victorino has played less than a fourth of the innings Rowand has, so those numbers are a little unreliable. I do think Victorino will play well in center these next few weeks. I’ll check back and see if those numbers change.

The other reason why I dispute the conventional wisdom is one that I hesitate to make, because my readers are very familiar with my list of grievances regarding Aaron Rowand’s performance at the plate in 2006, but I’ll make the point again (briefly):

Rowand is screwing up the Phillies offense big time. He had a career year in 2004 for the White Sox which won’t be repeated: .298 GPA / .234 ISO / 24 Home Runs / 92 Runs Created. Those numbers took a significant dive in 2005: .250 GPA / .137 ISO / 13 Home Runs / 78 Runs Created. And they aren’t doing much better right now: .251 GPA / .163 ISO / 12 Home Runs / 45 Runs Created. Rowand’s problem is that he is a free-swinger who strikes out too much and doesn’t draw enough walks. To-wit, thus far this season Aaron Rowand is drawing .040 walks per plate appearance. That is the worst on the the Phillies amongst regulars and worse than some of the Phils pitchers (e.g., Cole Hamels: .167). Rowand’s 3.40 pitches per plate appearance is also the worst amongst the regulars.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
Runs Created (RC): A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times ((S * 1.125) + (D * 1.69) + (T * 3.02) + (HR * 3.73) + (.29 * (BB + HBP – IBB)) + (.492 * (SB + SF + SH)) – (.04 * K))] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date, however. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended.

The problem with Rowand’s aggressive approach to offense is that he relies purely on his ability to make contact and put the ball into play. The problem with that is that plays who don’t draw walks don’t get on base consistently and don’t produce for their teams. That makes Rowand a maddeningly inconsistent player to watch at the plate. He might have a run of luck, and then go 0-for-sixteen and not get on base for five or six consecutive games. Victorino is a much more consistent player and I’m sure he’ll improve on his numbers with the expanded playing time.

Bottom-line: the conventional wisdom about Rowand’s injury being a big blow to the Phillies post-season chance is a load of bull. He’s really not producing much for the Phils and arguably his replacement, Shane Victorino, is going to play better than him. The Phillies will keep right on going and not skip a beat, just as they did last night in Chicago with their 6-3 win over the Cubs.

Today we are going to start with a regular feature on A Citizens Blog: Wildcard Watch! Here are the current standings:

Wildcard Standings:
1. Cincinnati: 66-60
2. San Diego: 64-62 (2.0)
3. Philadelphia: 63-62 (2.5)
4. Arizona: 62-64 (4.0)
5. San Francisco: 61-65 (5.0)
6. Milwaukee: 60-65 (5.5)
7. Atlanta: 59-66 (6.5)
8. Colorado: 59-66 (6.5)
9. Florida: 59-66 (6.5)

Stay tuned.

my initial reaction was that it hurt our depth, and it did, but it may help the offense and defense out in the long run.
I never understood why Burrell was sitting with the reason being so that both Delucci and Victorino could play. It seemed like all THREE should be in the lineup with Rowland being the one sitting. Well that's going to happen now. But I do agree with the previous poster, that our depth has probably taken a hit. And Rowland WAS starting to look like he was getting it a little more together at the plate, but that's just my gut feeling.
I think one of the reasons why they've been sitting Burrell is to try and move him towards waving his no-trade cause this offseason and consenting to some deal to get him out of town and get his salary off the books. i.e, they might be trying to alienate him by clearly stating: "We have plans for 2007 and you aren't in them."

Thanks for the comments guys!
Who the heck is Rowland?
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